By Marc Kovac
A state lawmaker isn’t holding his breath in anticipation of action by the Republican-controlled Ohio House on his proposal to legalize marijuana use for medical purposes.
Rep. Bob Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, doesn’t think his House Bill 153 will move much beyond the sponsor testimony he offered before the chamber’s health committee Wednesday. It’s the latest attempt to legalize medical marijuana over recent general assemblies, none of which have gained support for passage.
So Hagan is urging support for a constitutional amendment on the issue.
“The only process left is the citizens’ initiative,” he said. “The people now have to speak up.”
Hagan joined representatives of the Ohio Rights Group Wednesday for a Statehouse press conference touting the benefits of marijuana for treatment of cancer, Crohn’s disease and other debilitating medical conditions.
Both Hagan’s legislation and the Ohio Rights Group’s proposed constitutional amendment would legalize marijuana for medical uses, with limits in place to prevent casual consumption.
“We, in this piece of legislation and in this initiative, want to make sure that it takes care of those individuals that are in pain, that are in chronic pain, and that we do everything we can to make sure that’s where it goes,” Hagan said.
The Ohio Rights Group received approvals from the attorney general and state ballot board to circulate petitions to place the issue before voters. Supporters will have to gain more than 380,000 valid signatures from registered voters to qualify.
It’s the third petition attempt for the group, the last of which netted about 5,000 signatures before members abandoned the effort due to lack of interest in a presidential election year and a less technologically savvy campaign.
“We have 13 months to collect the 385,000 signatures in order to put it on the ballot for 2014,” said John Pardee, the group’s president. “We will get that done. ... This is a safe alternative that’s nontoxic that people can use for a lifetime and not have ill effects.”